Slow Noir is a brand new label, and one that is particularly special to us at Pennyblackmusic.com. Not least because it is co-run by the main man of one of our favourite bands La Nuit Americaine, Christian Govoni, but also by our magazine editor, John Clarkson and our bands' night promoter, Olga Sladeckova. If you’ve been reading Pennyblackmusic since we started 5 years ago, the chances are you’ve already been tempted to check out bands like Baptiste (you may even have caught their exceptional set at the first Pennyblackmusic bands night in January, just prior to their sad split), Magic 12, Transmissionary Six, Harper Lee and Copenhagen. If you’re new to the website, then this is a good chance to hear some new bands that deserve a lot more attention than they get elsewhere, I believe. 'Sunset:False', Slow Noir's first release, is a fantastic compilation, diverse in style yet common in spirit throughout. I thoroughly recommend this compilation. These are certainly the bands that have defined a lot of what this magazine has been about for the last few years, so if you’re here reading this, I would be astonished if you weren’t interested in the label.

I spoke all three responsible for putting the compilation together, to discuss this release, labels and music in general. Hopefully, this will give you a feel for what the compilation represents!

BH: How did you get involved with doing the Slow Noir label?

JC: About 2 years ago now the French micro-label and website hinah, who Pennyblackmusic has done a lot of work with, got in touch with me about the band La Nuit Americaine. Christian at this stage was looking for for publicity and Laurent and Eloise at hinah told me they had forwarded my e-mail address on to him so that he could make contact. I heard from Christain and he promised to send out a CD of La Nuit Americiane's debut CD 'Seranandze', but, after a few weeks, it hadn’t come. I wrote back as he had seemed very enthusiastic to work with usand asked what had happened, and he wrote back and said that his record label had dumped him. We chatted some more and decided to do a special limited edition of the ‘Seranandze’ album, to be sold exclusively through Pennyblackmusic, which Christian manufactured and put together himself. I passed the CD onto Olga to review it and to do an interview with Christian. Christian has remained in regular contact with Olga and I ever since then.

CG: The first idea was to produce my music. I was a little bit tired of spending money to send out demos, so I thought those money should be spent in a better way. Then, speaking with John and Olga, we decided to enlarge the project releasing other bands' music, and that’s basically what happened.

OS: I was in contact with Christian, and trying to help him find a label. Later on he wrote to me and said that he was interested in doing a record label and I remembered that John had said, not that he was definitely interested, but that he might be interested in doing something like that at some point.

JC: And it kind of went from there!

BH: Could you explain the significance of both the label name and the title of the compilation?

CG: When I released my first album, ‘Serenadze’, many friends asked me what kind of music it was. It was quite embarrassing to me, so my answer was ‘a slow noir style’. It meant anything, but they seemed quite satisfied with the answer so I decided to keep on using it to describe the idea of music I have in mind, and when it was time to decide the name of the label, I had no doubts.

The compilation’s name, ‘Sunset: False’ is more difficult to explain. A friend of mine, who played guitar on the first La Nuit Americaine release, was sectioned in a mental hospital. One day I went to see him there and it was nearly sunset. I noticed that the nurse was closing down the windows and I asked her the reason for it, as a beautiful light was coming in from outside. She replied, they absolutely had to close all the windows, as if a patient looked through the window and saw his face reflected on it, he would think that someone was spying on him so he would have to start screaming. They called it ‘false sunset’.

BH: How do you feel about the first release, “Sunset: False”?

CG: I’m feeling a little bit ‘empty’. I’ve been dedicating these last 8 months to this first release and I have honestly done my best for this compilation to come out, now I hope it will have the success it deserves, both for the great bands who contributed to it and also for the hard work done by the Slow Noir staff.

BH: So what are your precise roles in running the label?

JC: To be quite honest, Christian’s probably does 85% of the work. He runs the website, and manufactures the CDs. Olga and I have chosen most of the bands, and we’ve helped with distribution and promotion.

BH: How do you intend to come up with artwork?

CG: All the photos you will find on the Slow Noir and LNA releases are made by Federico Labanti, a great photographer and a friend of mine. He has made some of the most interesting photos I’ve ever seen. The only thing I do is to find a suitable frame setting for his photos.

BH: Christian, how do you intend to balance the jobs of musician and running the label?

CG: My intention is to keep things separated. As a label manager, I appreciate La Nuit Americaine’s music and I’m interested in releasing its material as well as the other bands I love. As a musician I will keep on making music.

BH: So how did you go about approaching bands for the CD?

JC: Basically, we each sat down and came up with a list, and then, once we had all discussed the suitability of the names that we had come up with , each approached the bands on our list.

OS: We decided we would have 15 bands so each of us would pick 5 bands. Most of them we already knew personally because we’d interviewed them for Pennyblackmusic.

JC: Yeah, in the case of people like Baptiste, who unfortunately split up after we’d agreed to put a track of theirs on the compilation, and Transmissionary Six, they were people who we had got on very well with through interviewing them for Pennyblackmusic. It wasn’t, however, a case of doing favours for mates. We had a lot of respect for these bands' music.

BH: So you were trying to draw people’s attention to bands that you thought were particularly good?

JC: Definitely.

OS: I think it’s very frustrating that there are so many great bands that don’t have a chance to be released and have people know about them, so I hope this helps them become a bit more well known.

BH: Do you feel there are any bands on the CD that are a bit bigger, and that might help draw people’s attention to the CD?

JC: We did talk initially about trying to get bigger names, but we ended up with our favourite bands, the majority of whom are perhaps not so well known. Some bands do have bigger fanbases than others, especially the Workhouse who appear last on the CD, who have a big fanbase in their local area, Oxford. But mostly, it was small bands that we especially like.

CG: I obviously love this compilation and I’m sure that most people who’ll listen to it will say the same, but how can I say? I think that’s the best way to ‘introduce’ the label, to promote bands that have already made some moves into the music industry. I think it’s more what they’ve done for Slow Noir, contributing with their songs, than what Slow Noir could do for them. I think Slow Noir can only be considered a real label when it starts releasing material from completely unknown bands and helps them to be a little less unknown.

BH: Were you looking for stylistic similarities in the bands when you chose them?

JC: We were to a degree. If you look at the label name, Slow Noir. It has film connotations, which are quite arty and quite dark, and we took slow to mean, not slow as in tempo, but as music that was often slow-burning and gradually evolving.

BH: Was this a conscious thing, or just a reflection of the sort of music you are interested in?

JC: I think it was a conscious thing. There were a few bands we talked about, Boys Star Library were one, who, great as they are, just would not have fitted in.

OS: I like listening to all kinds of music, but felt that we couldn’t mix bands for the compilation. I felt that it would be nice to do a different kind of compilation with a wider mix of bands, but it wasn’t right for this one.

BH: Did you select the tracks that went on?

JC: No, we asked them all to contribute a track. They chose the tracks they wanted to offer us.

OS: I think they all knew what kind of thing we were looking for from them anyway.

BH: Was your original idea for the tracklisting what came out at the end?

JC: Pretty much so. Yes, we got most of what we wanted.

BH: So what sort of audience do you imagine for this release?

JC: That’s a difficult question, but I would think that it would appeal to alternative music fans that are looking for something that’s a little bit different, or for something new perhaps by bands that they hadn't heard very much of before.

OS: I hope that people will buy the compilation for one or two bands and then listen to the others as well, and hopefully that will enlarge the fanbase of all the bands. Or perhaps the record label of one band will listen to the others and consider signing them.

CG: Each song has now a special meaning to me, I hope it will be the same for the people who’ll listen to this compilation. It could give to music fans the chance to discover new bands, and to even more appreciate the ones they already love.

BH: So how will you go about promoting the CD?

JC: We’re going to be sending it around various websites and magazines, people with whom we’ve built up connections with through doing Pennyblackmusic. Hopefully, it will attract the attention of some of the alternative rock audience and we will pull in some reviews.

OS: And of course, we’ll also be promoting it through each of the bands websites as well.

BH: How about selling it?

JC: We’ll be selling it through Pennyblackmusic, and Christian will also be setting up distribution in Italy and also we’re looking at setting up distribution in America.

BH: What are your intentions for the next releases, and in the long term how do you view the label developing?

CG: I’m getting a clear idea of how I’d like Slow Noir to be, but I would prefer not to talk about it now. It mostly depends on the bands I’ll have the chance to work with. The best thing to do now is concentrate on this first release.

BH: Do you have any labels that you view as an inspiration?

JC: I really admire hinah, and I really like the American label, Film Guerrerro. I am fans of both those labels.

OS: I think I like Bella Union the most. I think they do a similar style of music to what we do on the compilation and I like almost all of their bands.

CG: I have no doubts: 4AD of the 80’s and early 90’. I almost love all its releases.

It was not simply a label that put CDs out. I see 4AD as a living theatre, in which you slipped into and it brought you into a heavenly dimension.

You listened to a song and you already knew it was a 4AD release.It was something that went over the music.

BH: This will, however be the first and last release that some of you work on…

JC: I've got a busy home situation. My girlfriend and I look after her mother, who is quite elderly and needs a lot of care. I spend a lot of time on Pennyblackmusic and, with the label as well,it was getting too much and something had to go. I wasn’t prepared to give up Pennyblackmusic, having spent 5 years working on it. It’s no reflection on Christian or the label, but I’m not going to do another release.

OS: For me, it was more a financial situation. I put lots of money into music generally and the label was just too much for me. But I’m really glad that we did the compilation, and that I have had the experience.

JC: I’ve learned a lot about running a label. At the end of the day, it wasn’t really for me, but I’m glad I did it. Christian is going to go on, and we’ll stay in touch and when he does more releases I’ll be more than happy to help to promote it for him through Pennyblackmusic.

BH: Finally, what sort of music are you listening to at the moment?

JC: Pretty much what I’ve always listened to in the last few years. No surprises here! The Willard Grant Conspiracy, the Walkabouts and Baptiste. Moving back further from that, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Joy Division and the Cure.

OS: I’m listening to the same bands as on the compilation, people like Harper Lee and Saint Joan. I really like Lupine Howl, and a new band the Lazarus Effect.

CG: I’ve honestly spent the last months listening to the tracks of this compilation, so I haven't found the time to listen to much else. There are those bands who I can never separate myself from, and those bands are the Cure, the Smiths, Joy Division, Red House Painters, Tim Buckley and Nick Drake.

BH: Any final thoughts?

CG: First of all, I want to thank all the guys at Pennyblackmusic for this chance. I also want to say to all unsigned bands I’m looking forward to hearing from them, so please send me your demos, but only if you think your music really has something to say. Then, I would suggest to everybody to listen to this compilation. I think you’ll be surprised by the high quality music you’ll find inside. The Slow Noir website is now on-line at www.slownoir.com, if you’re interested in finding out more.

Thank you!

BH: Thank you also!

'Sunset : False' will be on sale on the Pennyblackmusic site as from the 1st September









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